Listen to the messages coming out of Washington, D.C. and you'd think we're spending all our available money on clean and green technologies, things like algae biofuels, cleaner cars and advanced batteries. Turns out, this isn't remotely true. According to a new study that reviewed fossil fuel and energy subsidies for Fiscal Years 2002-2008 was just released by the Environmental Law Institute and discovered that the U.S. spends about two-and-a-half times as much on fossil fuels (mostly aiding foreign oil production) than it does on renewable energy. Fossil fuels were given about $72 billion during the seven years, while renewable fuels got just $29 billion. The money the U.S. spends on renewables isn't all that great, either. Of the $29 billion, $16.8 billion went to producing corn-based ethanol. Just two tax credits – the Foreign Tax Credit and the Credit for Production of Nonconventional Fuels – account for about $30 billion. The ELI writes that, "The Foreign Tax Credit applies to the overseas production of oil through an obscure provision of the U.S. Tax Code, which allows energy companies to claim a tax credit for payments that would normally receive less-beneficial treatment under the tax code."
It seems to us that taking some government money out of subsidizing fossil fuels would have a doubling impact on getting to a greener economy: petroleum products would get more expensive (a good thing to more to cleaner cars) and money would be freed up for cleaner technologies.
You can download a PDF of the report, titled "Estimating U.S. Government Subsidies to Energy Sources: 2002-2008." For purposes of the study, fossil fuels included petroleum and its byproducts, natural gas, and coal products; renewable fuels included wind, solar, biofuels and biomass, hydropower, and geothermal energy production. Nuclear was not included in either definition.
[Source: Environmental Law Institute]
Photo by Kenneth Hynek. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.